It’s Christmas week on Top Chef: Kentucky (even though I’m pretty sure they filmed this during the summer). Most of the action takes place indoors this episode, meaning we don’t get to see a lot of our Old Kentucky Home, but there are still plenty of desserts and drama to drool over. To the recap!
Quickfire: The worst gift exchange ever
Top Chef Season 14 winner Brooke Williamson and Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais help Padma out with this week’s Quickfire Challenge. The chefs will have 30 minutes to create a holiday dish but only two minutes to choose their ingredients. Of course, there’s a twist. Once the chefs return from the pantry, Padma tells them they must swap their ingredients in a White Elephant gift exchange. Brian gets really excited about the “Yankee Swap,” yelling out, “I’m from Boston, you know what I mean!” Yeah…we know that apparently you don’t realize that White Elephant gift exchanges happen everywhere, not just in the Northeast. Also, the ingredients you chose suck, so you’re really lucky.
Anyways, the chefs make do with what they have. The judges praise Sara’s take on fried chicken livers and Nini’s cream cheese chutney with apples, but it’s David’s leek noodles that get the win and immunity in the elimination challenge. Back-to-back Quickfire wins for David! Considering he only had leeks to work with, that’s pretty impressive.
Elimination Challenge: Too many cooks in the kitchen
The chefs return to the mansion (aka “The Avish” in Prospect, if you missed last week’s recap), where they’re greeted by Tom Colicchio, Graham Elliot, and OMG IT’S ERIC RIPERT. Everyone’s favorite French chef is joining the gang for a “Réveillon de Noël,” or traditional Christmas feast. Some of the chefs almost wet themselves with excitement, but to be fair, it would be like Freddie Maggard crashing your Citrus Bowl watch party. Eric Ripert is a big damn deal!
Just as the chefs are starting to relax, the realization dawns on them that of course this isn’t just a magical Christmas feast in the middle of May with Eric Ripert; this is also the elimination challenge. The chefs have two hours to make one of the 13 desserts that are part of a traditional Réveillon de Noël. The extra twist? They have to do it in the kitchen at the mansion. All 13 of them.
Since I watch both Top Chef and The Great British Baking Show, I know that “cooking” and “baking” are two entirely different things, so naturally, some of the chefs are worried, with Brian going as far to complain, “I cut meat, I don’t bake.” In fact, Nini and Kelsey are the only chefs with pastry experience. Nini, an intense little thing, threatens to kill anyone who opens the bottom oven while her pastry is inside, and then Sara goes and opens it. Given the ominous music that plays when this happens, I thought it was going to be a much bigger deal than it ended up being. Phew.
At judging, the chefs present their dishes. The judges don’t hold back, comparing Adrienne’s almond daquoise to “frozen orange juice” and swearing off biscuits after tasting Brian’s sweet and savory offering. Pablo’s dark chocolate tart is too boring and Kevin’s ricotta cake is too salty, which Brandon tried to warn him about in the kitchen.
In the end, Kelsey’s chocolate pot de crème, Nini’s blackberry and lemon vacherin, and Eddie’s strawberry shortcake crumble are the top three dishes. Nini wins her second straight Elimination Challenge, but it was nice to see Eddie get some praise. He was still beating himself up over last week’s lamb debacle. IT’S OKAY, EDDIE!
Kevin’s salty ricotta cake, Pablo’s basic chocolate tart, and Brian’s vinegary biscuit make up the bottom three. While all three dishes were gross, Kevin is the one who goes home because his dish was “so salty it was inedible.” But it’s all good, guys. He got to eat with Eric Ripert and someone’s going to water his garden for him.
My Old Kentucky Home Takes
— Again, aside from the wild turkeys outside the mansion at the beginning of the episode, we didn’t get to see much of the Bluegrass State; however, I am all for the budding bromance between Brian and Brandon. The bonding moment over Brandon’s hair straightener was kind of awesome.
— Kentucky girl Sara had a good week after coming off as a bit cocky in the last episode. We got to hear a little bit more about her childhood as “the only Jewish kid in Kentucky” and her biscuit with coconut “whooped” cream looked great to me. It is more fun when you say “whooped”!
— I wonder who ended up having to clean the kitchen the next day? Did they make Kevin do it before he left?
Next week: Restaurant wars, bubble baths, and hopefully more of the Bluegrass State.